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BY AARON SHARP Features Editor hopeless hancock; covid-19 crisis: professionals blast health minister failings >>40,000 tests in the post was 'classic Matt' >>As care toll soared he gave staff badge.

Byline: AARON SHARP Features Editor AS Matt Hancock shamelessly

fiddled figures to reach his target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day on Friday, few who worked with him were surprised.

One ex-colleague of the Health Secretary told us: "It's classic Matt. He's as slippery as a bar of soap."

To save his backside, Hancock brazenly added 40,000 tests "in the post" to 80,000 really taking place.

But with one union calling for his resignation and Labour leader Keir Starmer backing an inquiry into the Government's handling of the crisis, this spinner may become unspun.

Our insider said: "When the inquest happens, and it will - he's toast." Today we trace Hopeless Hancock's hat-trick of mishaps. TESTING As early as March 16, the World Health Organisation's advice was: "Test, test, test." Yet by the end of that month the UK was testing fewer than 5,000 people a day compared to Germany's 100,000.

By April 1, we had tested just 2,000 of the 500,000 frontline NHS workers.

Next day grovelling Hancock said "I get it" at the daily briefing, promising 100,000 tests a day by May. It stunned testing organisers. Doris-Ann Williams, chief of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, said: "That target is his, set without industry consultation.

Hancock thought he'd bought himself time, but by relaxing testing restrictions to ramp the numbers up, it caused chaos. On the first day, tests ran out in five minutes. The British Medical Association said the "first come, first served" system was stopping healthcare staff getting tests. A Tory Party source said Hancock had "told everyone to drop everything to meet a target only designed to save his own skin".

PPE The failure to locate and secure stocks of lifesaving personal protective equipment can be traced back as far as January 31.

While No. 10 celebrated Brexit, government officials attended EU meetings where countries discussed the need to buy up PPE stocks using the EU's collective buying power.

Our government did not participate - blaming a missed email.Hancock faced criticism over the lack of equipment and unclear guidance on the use of masks.

On March 23 he admitted the Government faced "challenges" in securing PPE. Five days later surgeons Amged El-Hawrani, 55, and Adil El Tayar, 63, were the first NHS frontline staff to die of the virus.

With NHS staff forced to beg for makeshift PPE from farm workers and even beekeepers Hancock told medics to use equipment as "the precious resource it is", suggesting staff were wasting items.

A Panorama documentary this week claimed government officials had bumped up figures by counting gloves as single items of PPE. Guidance for PPE was also hastily redrawn classifying single-use items as reusable. The GMB union's Rachel Harrison said: "The Health Secretary has serious and urgent questions to answer." CARE HOMES Warnings from other countries over virus deaths in the social care sector were HANCOCK flagged up last month. One report suggested up to 57 per cent of all European Covid-19 deaths were happening in care homes. In Britain, Hancock reacted on April 15 by unveiling a "Care Badge" to be worn by workers in the sector - as hospitals were ordered to discharge elderly patients directly into homes, risking an explosion of infection. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, a social care campaigner, said: "Of all the things long-suffering social care staff in England most need, I would put a badge close to the bottom of the list."

By the time the Health Secretary had proudly launched it, HC-One, Britain's biggest care home operator, had lost more than 300 residents and a carer in its 232 homes. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) blamed the rampage of the disease through care homes on "paltry" levels of PPE provided for them since the outbreak began.

It said the ramp-up in testing was "rolled out without thought given to who is going to be tested and what we will do with the result".

Pressured to address the true loss of life in care homes and in the community, Hancock finally announced a toll would be given along with the hospital figures.

On the first day of the combined figures, the UK toll jumped by more than 4,000, confirming the true extent of the crisis. But now reports suggest anywhere between 7,500 to 17,500 care home residents may have died as a result of Covid-19.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: "The government's care home Covid response has been woeful. As a result, many more elderly people, and carers, will lose their lives.

"This is a national scandal."

aaron.sharp@sundaymirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

HANCOCK One blunder after another
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Author:AARON SHARP Features Editor AS Matt Hancock shamelessly
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 3, 2020
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